Oriental spatchcock turkey
Picture: Chris Collingridge
Oriental spatchcock turkey Picture: Chris Collingridge 133
Turkey gravy.
Picture: Chris Collingridge 
Turkey gravy. Picture: Chris Collingridge 204
Deconstructed roast turkey.
Picture: Chris Collingridge  
Deconstructed roast turkey. Picture: Chris Collingridge 137

Johannesburg - With Christmas a week away, I have been doing a lot of research on how to roast the perfect bird. Turkey can be tricky to cook because of its size and the fact that the legs and breasts cook at different rates. Inevitably by the time the legs are done, the breast meat is dry and overcooked. The thighs and legs are also more difficult to carve, and often end up hacked and in shreds.

While doing my research, I came across Julia Child’s deconstructed turkey recipe and decided to give it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised by the results. Not only was the breast meat succulent and juicy but the leg and thigh meat, which I usually turn my nose up at, was tasty and a pleasure to carve and serve.

Spatchcocking a turkey is also very successful and a good way to cook it on a covered braai.

I found that the best and safest way to make sure your meat doesn’t overcook is to use a meat thermometer. They are available from kitchen shops and are a worthwhile investment.

The internal temperature of the turkey breast when it is cooked should read 165°F-175°F or 73°C-80°C and the thigh and leg 175°F-180°F or 80°C-90°C.

Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat to take the reading.

Most of the turkeys available in the supermarkets are frozen, and it is important to thaw them slowly in the fridge, which can take up to 3 days. Most turkeys have also been pre-brined or have some sort of basting, so there is no need to brine them to keep the meat moist.

It is also not advisable to stuff the body cavity of a turkey. Cooking through to the centre of the stuffing will take too long and will result in the bird being overcooked. You can put stuffing in the neck cavity.

It is best to cook the stuffing separately. A vegetable and bread stuffing can be cooked in the roasting pan with the bird resting on it, or a sausage meat stuffing can be rolled into balls or placed in a loaf and cooked separately.

The stuffing roll wrapped in bacon that I prepared was particularly good.



Serves 6-8

3.5kg frozen turkey, defrosted

salt and pepper

15ml chopped sage

olive oil


250g good-quality white bread, cut into 1.5cm cubes.

30ml olive oil

30g butter

3 onions, chopped

6 ribs of celery, chopped

250ml dried cranberries

4 eggs, beaten

salt and pepper

Remove neck and the giblets from the turkey and keep to make the gravy.

With the turkey breast-side up, use a boning knife to cut through the skin of the leg quarter where it attaches to the breast.

Bend the leg back to pop the leg bone out of the socket. Cut through the joint to separate the leg quarter.

Repeat to remove the other leg and thigh.

Working with one joint at a time, cut along the underside of the thigh bone. Slide the knife under the bone to free the meat.

Without severing the skin, cut the joint between the thigh and leg and remove the thigh bone. Reserve the bones for gravy.

Rub the inside of the thigh with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped sage.

Truss the thigh closed using toothpicks and kitchen string. Cover and refrigerate till required.

Using a kitchen scissors, cut through the ribs following a vertical line. Bend the back away from the breast and separate it. Also keep it for gravy. Refrigerate until ready to cook. Prepare the stuffing.

STUFFING: Spread the bread cubes on an oven tray and put in the oven at 180°C for 10-15 minutes until dried and starting to brown. Remove and put in a bowl.

Heat the oil and butter in a pan and fry the onion and celery for 10 minutes until softened.

Add to the bread.

Add the cranberries and beaten eggs and toss well to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the stuffing in the roasting tray. Arrange the turkey breast and thigh portions over the stuffing to completely cover it. Tuck in any exposed stuffing under the turkey. Rub the turkey with oil and season well.

Roast at 200°C for 20 minutes, then turn down the oven to 180°C and roast for 1-1½ hours or until the thermometer reaches 165°F/73°C for the breast and 175°/80°C for the leg/thigh.

Remove from the oven and place the turkey on a carving board. Cover with foil.

Give the stuffing a good turn, scraping the bottom of the roasting pan. Return to the oven for 10 minutes.

Remove the toothpicks and string from the leg portions.

Mound the stuffing on a serving plate and place the turkey on top.



Makes about 500ml

reserved turkey giblets, neck and bones

2 onions, roughly chopped

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

2 celery ribs, roughly chopped

6 garlic cloves, unpeeled

6 sprigs of thyme

30ml olive oil

500ml white wine

750ml chicken stock

45ml flour

salt and pepper

10-15ml Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Place the turkey bits into a large roasting pan with the onions, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme and olive oil. Toss to combine.

Roast, stirring occasionally, for 50-60 minutes.

Add the wine and stock and roast for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and strain the contents througha mesh strainer into a large bowl.

Press the solids with the back of a spatula. Discard the solids.

Cool for 10 minutes.

Either use a fat separator jug or skim the fat off the liquid.

Put the fat into a saucepan over medium high heat until bubbling. Whisk in the flour and, whisking constantly, cook until combined and honey coloured – about 2 minutes.

Gradually add the stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

Season and stir in the Worcestershire sauce.

The gravy can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.



3kg frozen turkey, defrosted


125g butter

45ml chopped mixed herbs – parsley, thyme and chives

10ml grated lemon rind

30ml lemon juice

salt and pepper

extra melted butter for brushing

extra herbs for the cavity

Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and set aside to make gravy. Rinse and pat the turkey dry with paper towel. Carefully separate the skin from the meat on the turkey breast, legs and thighs. Take care not to break the skin. Try sliding a wooden spoon under the skin to do this.

Make up the herb butter and spread the butter thickly under the skin of the breast, legs and thighs. Truss the legs to keep them in place and tuck the wings under the bird.

Brush the turkey all over with the extra melted butter and season. Place a few sprigs of herbs inside the cavity along with the lemon you have used to squeeze the juice from. This will help flavour the bird from within.

Place on a rack over an oven tray, breast-side down. Roast at 200°C for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully turn the turkey breast-side up. Baste with the pan juices.

Turn the oven down to 180°C and continue to roast for another 1-2 hours or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 175°F/ 80°C. Baste once or twice during the cooking time.

If the skin becomes too dark, cover the turkey with foil.

When cooked, remove and set aside covered to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

HERB BUTTER: Combine all ingredients and mix well.



1x 3kg turkey defrosted, neck and giblets removed

15ml Chinese 5 spice powder

60ml salt flakes

grated rind of 3 oranges

30ml dark brown sugar

15ml chopped rosemary

15ml chopped thyme

3ml ground black pepper

olive oil


250g butternut, cubed

250g sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 red onions, peeled and cut into thin wedges

300g Brussels sprouts, halved

3 cloves of garlic, sliced

15ml chopped thyme

salt and pepper

olive oil

250g ciabatta bread, sliced and cubed and toasteduntil crisp

Remove the backbone of the turkey by cutting down on either side of the central bone through the ribs and separating the joints at the base of the turkey. This can be done with a sharp kitchen knife or a pair of kitchen shears.

Place the turkey skin-side up on a board and press down on the breastbone to flatten it.

Combine the spice, salt, orange rind, sugar, herbs and pepper in a pestle and mortar and pound until well combined. Rub this mixture into the surface of the turkey.

Put the turkey ona rack over a tray and refrigerate for 6-12 hours. When ready to cook, let the turkey come to room temperature, then rub with olive oil.

Place the turkey ona rack over the stuffing and roast at180°C for 1-2 hours or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest partof the leg reaches 175°F/80°C. Remove and cover with foil for 20 minutes before carving. Serve with the stuffing.

STUFFING: Combine the butternut, sweet potato, onion, Brussels sprouts, garlic, herbs and seasoning and mix well. Coat with olive oil and place in the roasting pan with the turkey on top.

When the turkey is cooked, add the cubed bread and mix well. While the turkey is resting, return the stuffing to the oven for another 15-20 minutes.

Serve the turkey on top of the stuffing.



Serves 8-10

15ml olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 apples, peeled, cored and grated

2 x 500g pork sausages

125ml pistachio nuts, chopped

125ml dried cranberries, chopped

1 bunch of thyme, leaves only

a few sage leaves, finely chopped

1 egg

500ml white breadcrumbs

salt and pepper

2 packets of streaky bacon

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, and gently fry the onion for 5 minutes until softened.

Add the apples. Remove from the heat into a large bowl.

Squeeze the sausage meat from the sausages into the bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients, except the bacon, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble, place a piece of tinfoil on the work surface. Stretch out the bacon rashers overlapping on the foil.

Spoon the stuffing down the middle of the bacon and form into a sausage shape. Tuck the edges of the bacon over the stuffing, then, using the foil, roll the stuffing up into a log.

Put the foil-wrapped roll into a roasting tin and roast for 30 minutes.

Open up the foil and roast for a further 10-15 minutes until the bacon is crisp.

Remove and restfor 10 minutes before slicing.

The Star